tv U.S. Senate CSPAN July 29, 2009 9:00am-12:00pm EDT
into fruition 10 years later of normalized relations. we were so constantly thinking of henry kissinger over the last days getting ready for this because his work, his courage, the risk that he took has led us in many ways to this evening. and on a personal note, let me say since taking this job, i've relied on the wise counsel of many of mypredecessors and -- my predecessors and secretary kissinger has been the most thoughtful for his advice. once again we are grateful he is with us here tonight as we continue to work towards something that he saw on the horizon and convinced others that it was possible to see and move toward a stronger u.s./china relationship. please join me in welcoming secretary -- former secretary
adversary, having graduated that developed to a point where the future of world order, the future economies of our societies and of our world depends so crucially on the relationship between china and the united states. this is the eighth american administration and the fourth generation of chinese leaders who have pursued a consistent policy that has brought us to this point. of course, whenever a chinese delegation comes here, it contains so many friends. and so many individuals whose
experiences i have seen over the last decades. that this is a guarantee for our future. there could be no stronger chairman of this dialog than secretary clinton and secretary geithner. on our side. and i'm confident that we are at the beginning of another extraordinarily creative period. vice premier deng xiaoping and one of the most moving experiences in my life was one evening when deng xiaoping had to turn in 1979 and explain to
me at a banquet what his plans were. and what he understood, and i mention it only because it was a very unusual approach and it brought us to this point because the combination of courage and vision, which characterized him and then it's successors. it's my privileged to introduce deng xiaoping. the most difficult problem is that one always has to act on actions which one cannot be known when one makes them.
i know nobody who has better judgment, more thoughtful preparations, more patience and more commitment to the central importance of the signo-american relationship then state council sul consul dai bingguo. i have learned a lot from him that we know that under his guidance and of the vice premier, the chinese-american delegations will begin to chart a future. its revolutionary is the great
predecessor deng xiaoping. and it is in this spirit the state counciller to address this group in expressing my great personal pleasure in welcoming him here. [applause] [applause] >> at this point in the program, there were technical problems with the simultaneous translation. he continued after the problems were fixed. >> translator: he is with us and he introduced me and that was
dr. kissinger. [speaking in native tongue] >> translator: he together with president nixon opened the door of relations between china and the united states and he urge d urged -- as one of the older generations and he contributed greatly to the growth of china-u.s. relations. he's now in his 80s but he's still traveling back and forth between china and the united states. it is fair to say that in my heart he is an expert in diplomacy and international relations. he's a symbol of wisdom.
ñoó chinese relations. no one knows better than he does of a bilateral relationship and it will be difficult to find another one. so i admire him, and i have learned a great deal from him. he said he has learned things from me, but i think i am flattered. i'm humbled by his kind words whenever i come to the council, one, it is possible that i would stop in new york and call on dr. kissinger. i cannot do that at this time because we are flying back to
china. maybe next time i'll come to new york to go see dr. kissinger. strategic dialog in the 1970s, at that time when china and the united states started to grow their relations. dr. kissinger and former chairman zhou spend 20 years discussing our relations and i think this was the first high-level strategic dialog between the two countries. we are now actually in a learning process. we're learning from them. but without strategic vision and great wisdom and courage, it was not possible at all to open the
doors of china/u.s. relations and we would not have achieved so much in our relations, which has brought tremendous benefits to our two peoples and we'd not have such a gathering of so many friends on both sides. maybe you will be greatly interested knowing how the dialogs go. i heard from president obama, which is the most authoritative and we had heard from secretary clinton for her authority and comments. and a moment ago dr. kissinger and some other friends told me that they were satisfied, and some say very satisfied by the dialog and i think it is very successful indeed.
and i am satisfied. i don't know if vice premier wang agrees with me. [applause] >> i think the dialogs touched upon broad issues. as i told the press, we talked about literally everything except for going to the moon and mars. we talked about everything in this world that we don't have any hidden agenda behind the backs of anyone else. people were very in depth, candid and productive. i think what has happened has proved and will continue to prove that the decisions made by our two presidents in london to
establish the china-u.s. strategic and economic dialog was absolutely right and it will have far-reaching significance. of course, i also would like to say that the dialogs we're having now is a continuation and development of the previous strategic dialogs and strategic economic dialogs. of course, we have our own creations. and in past two days, i spent most of my time with secretary clinton. we had a lot of discussions.
we shook hands for numerous times. this is our second meeting. our first meeting was back in beijing. i host dinner in our guest house. the first thing i said to her was, you are more beautiful than i saw you on tv. [laughter] >> this is absolutely sincere. [applause] >> and i also told her that in this world, she's the only one foreign secretary among the countries she was extraordinary talents, wisdom, and
perseverance. this is our second meeting. and as she said, we're already open. she said something very impressive. she said strategic mutual trust is not an abstract concept. that includes a relationship of mutual understanding, trust, friendship, and cooperation between officials of the two governments. the china-u.s. relationship is growing, and is a grand cause undertaken by all of us including all of you present, so
it is extremely important to enhance our friendship and mutual understanding. [speaking in native tongue] >> translator: you have taken note that yesterday president obama made a very important speech at the opening ceremony of the dialog. he talked about the china-u.s. relationship. over several times he -- he understood many new things. he said some in china think that america will try to contain china's ambitions and some in america think there is something to fear in a rising china, and
he takes a different view. we can go back and read his speech. maybe you will ask, what are the chinese people thinking? deep down, are you biding your time and assume a hidden agenda when you grow strong enough, you will probably in the end try to replace the united states but i wish to tell you here that you don't have to have the slightest suspicion of doubt. the only thing that generations and even tens of generations of chinese people long to do and are thinking is china's peace
and development. we seek harmony at home. we seek development at home and peace and cooperation in the world. we wish to work together with the united states and the rest of the world to build of harmonious peace and prosperity. china doesn't have a history or tradition of expansion or hegemony. we have some years of political and cultural tradition, and benevolence and peace. what we admire are values of seeking peace and harmony in this world. and today's china doesn't claim leadership or seek hegemony and this is china's basic national policy. we always honor our commitments. we do not export china's social
system or development path. we respect the american people for your choice of your social system and development path. you can build your capitalism with american characteristics and we will build a social system with chinese characterics. we will focus on all developments and we are happy to see the united states continue to stay prosperous and develop. we're committed to better and more economic and technical cooperation with united states. our bilateral trade is now 300 billion u.s. dollars and it will probably reach 3 trillion u.s. dollars in the future. we will not have arms race with the united states on top of your agenda a 1.3 chinese people have
better lives and better clothes and have better living conditions. we will not -- we are not willing to spend lots and lots of money on military expense, but i think the united states and the whole world should know clearly of china's strategic intention. it is predictable, while intended, the united states can deal with china and make friends with china, reassured and we should not lose any sleep over china. you can completely rest assured. maybe some are still not reassured. i'm always truthful and sincere.
i am sincerely committed to the basic policy of the chinese government that is seeking the lasting sound and steady relationship within the united states. my predecessors, the older generation, also took part in this great cause and i heard a lot from him about the importance of a sound explanation. how do we continue and develop the good start we had when president obama came into office and how do we implement the characterization of the chinese
relationship with the president and how do we translate good wish into policies and actions in bringing the chinese relationship higher -- to a higher plane? how do we make this great china-u.s. friendship more successful? i think we should have the following awarenesses. first of all, our awareness of large picture. we chinese love talking about large pictures. i think it's not easy to translate it into a foreign language. i think generally as far as china relations, china-u.s. relations are concerned, we need to maintain our core interests and maintain our relationship. the second awareness of responsibilities just now secretary clinton talked about responsibilities facing more and
more severe global challenges. china and the united states should do our best to turn challenges into opportunities to promote prosperity so that china and the united states and each and every of the households in this world can live under warm sunshine. third, an awareness of progress. it's a mutually beneficial program in a willing program should be an important principle when we deal with other countries and conduct broad international cooperation. as i said, since we are all in a giant boat, hit by fears, wind and rain as we face common challenges and share roles and
our destinies are interconnected, we need to work together to cross the stormy weather together and to seek win-win results. our american friends, i think it's probably secretary clinton or secretary geithner who wrote in the article that we need to row the boat together. now i wish to turn to thank my friends who have contributed to china-u.s. relations. the friendship groups and people are a strong force pushing china-u.s. relations forward over difficulties and obstacles. every progress and achievement in china-u.s. relationship is a symbol of your commitment and effort. in a new historic era to seek
new opportunities. we need your contribution and efforts. in china we say that fire burns brighter and higher when everybody contributes. everybody adds wood into it. and greater things get done when everybody contributes to it. and an even brighter future of a china-u.s. relationship have contribution from all peoples from all walks of life. dr. kissinger said it's an innovative era so we need to build on the achievements in the three decades of the past and the achievements of the predecessors. we need to build together an even greater future. and finally, i wish to share with you a piece of happy news. i told secretary clinton the day
before yesterday that was one month ago today, i became a grandfather. and before that, someone told me that life will be different when someone becomes a grandfather. i think that comes with a lot of responsibilities. whenever i hold my adorable little grandchild, i went to see her the day i left for america. whenever i look at her pure and innocent face, i am thinking, what kind of world shall we leave to our children and grandchildren? what kind of future can we build for them? i believe all of you share the
same view that we hope that our children will leave hunger and diseases, all of them can breathe fresh air under a blue sky and grow up happily and healthily together under the sunshine. so let us join hands, let people all around the world join hands to make our efforts. to make this dream come true and finally i would like to sincerely thank secretary clinton, secretary geithner and all the colleagues from the usi participating not -- not participated but cared for and supported the dialog. i salute your efforts and i appreciate your commitment. i also thank president obama and
president hu jintao for the importance they place on the dialogs and their guidance and support. the next dialog will be held in beijing. we welcome you. we welcome secretary clinton and secretary geithner and all my american friends to beijing. what we are worried is whether we can reciprocate such warm hospitality, such careful arrangements that we will try our best.
finally, i wish to say as long as we work together and keep firmly to our direction, we will build a better tomorrow for china and u.s. relations running so long. thank you very much. [applause] >> that was an inspiring and wonderful speech. and we agree with you, that the vice premier is an outstanding speaker. but you have persuaded this audience that you too are an outstanding public speaker and we're grateful for your remarks. let me say to all of you who have participated tonight, thank you so much for being with us. and i particularly want to thank the four leaders of the
strategic and economic dialog. i would also like to wish our chinese visitors a safe journey home and to get them started in the right direction, i would ask all of our guests to stay seated just for a few minutes so that our two guests, the vice premier, and the state counciller and their delegations can leave together and so they have an easy exit from our event. and i thank you one and all. [applause] >> we take you live now to capitol hill as the u.s. senate convenes. on the agenda fiscal year 201$2 spending. $34.3 billion for the energy department and water infrastructure programs.
it's the second of a dozen annual spending bills. the house has passed 11 so far taking up the final bill today on defense department spending and you can follow the house live on c-span. they gavel in at 10:00 am eastern. now live senate coverage on c-span2. the presiding officer: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. god, our father, thank you for eyes to see and hearts to feel the wonders of your world.
fill our senators today with fresh faith in your power to protect and sustain our nation and world. may they face challenges with the triumphant confidence that no weapon that has been formed can prevail against your eternal purpose. lord, keep them calm in temper, clear in mind, sound in heart, and strong in faith. enable them to perform faithfully and well what you require, even to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly
with you. when this day's work is done, give them refreshment of mind, spirit, and body. we pray in your sacred name. amen. the presiding officer: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to the flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. the presiding officer: the clerk will read a communication to the senate. the clerk: washington, d.c, july 29, 2009. to the senate:
under the provisions of rule 1, paragraph 3, of the standing rules of the senate, i hereby appoint the honorable tom udall, a senator from the state of new mexico, to perform the duties of the chair. signed: robert c. byrd, president pro tempore. reid mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader is recognized. mr. reid: this morning following the remarks of the two leaders, the senate will resume consideration of the energy and water appropriations bill. cloture motions were filed last night. as a result, there is a 1:00 p.m. filing deadline for first-degree amendments. roll call votes are possible throughout the day. i would hope that people who want to offer amendments would do so so we can complete this legislation. there's no reason we shouldn't finish it today, mr. president. as announced last night, i am going to turn to the agriculture appropriations bill as soon as we complete the action on the bill that's now on the floor of the senate.
mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the republican leader is recognized. mr. mcconnell: throughout the debate on health care reform, the administration has made a pointf asking various stakeholders to come together and do their part. doctors and hospitals are being asked to find significant savings, seniors are being asked to make major sacrifices, and so are the states. every week it seems the white house hosts an event aimed at showcasing some sacrifice being made by one group or another. every group, that is, except personal injury lawyers. it's a glaring omission, since everyone knows that the constant threat of lawsuits is one of the reasons health care premiums for americans have skyrocketed over 100% over the past decade and the primary reason that many doctors today spend a literal
fortune on malpractice insurance, even before they open their doors for business. to take just one example, neurosurge surgeons in miami can expect to spend more on malpractice insurance every single year than many families in miami can expect to spend on a new home. this is a very serious problem, and everyone 0 knows it. and yet we don't hear a word about it, not a word, from any of the democratic-led committees in congress that are working on reform. it's int not because the administration hasn't raised the issue. last month the president obama raised the issue of so-called widespread medicine or the practice of prescribing tests or drugs that aren't really needed just to protect one's self from a lawsuit. during the same speech the president said we need to
explore a whole range of ideas about how to scale back defensive medicine. well, democrats in congress must not have been paying much attention to that part of the speech because i haven't heard a single word on this issue from any democrat since, not one. one exception was the recent suggestion by some in the administration that doctors are performing unnecessary surgeries just to make an extra buck. i think a better explanation is the one the president gave last month when he said doctors often perform certain procedures just to protect themselves from frivolous lawsuits. the costs associated with ever-increasing malpractice insurance and defensive medicine are indeed substantial, and both are simply, of course, passed along to consumers in the form of higher costs for even basic treatments and procedures. and many americans pay an even
higher price when doctors decide that the threat of lawsuits and the cost of insurance just isn't worth it and decide to close down their practices altogether. every state feels the effect of out-of-control malpractice suits. one study suggests that kentucky alone is 2,300 doctors short of the national average, a shortage that could be reduced, in part, by getting a handle on malpractice suits. i've spoken before about the effects that a culture of jackpot lawsuits has an everyday americans, on people like rochelle of kentucky. dorgan article in "the louisville courier journal," her first two babies were born in the hospital, about a 10-minute ride from her home. but her third child had to be delivered about 30 miles away.
why? well, the rising malpractice rates had forced doctors at the hospital to stop delivering babies altogether. they just couldn't afford the malpractice insurance. when the threat of lawsuits drives insurance premiums so high that many doctors are forced to go out of business, that mothers across the country can't find a local obstetrician, and that health insurance costs for everyone continue to go up, we have a problem that needs to be addressed. and yet every single one of the so-called comprehensive health care reform proposals that democrats are currently putting together in congress completely and totally ignores this issue. the only people who benefit from the current system are the personal injury lawyers who can end up taking to a third of every settlement, and frankly, if appealed, an even greater percentage. and protecting them isn't what health care reform was supposed to be about.
why it's hard to escape the conclusion that this is precisely what's going on here. if the administration wants to be comprehensive in its approach, it should ask the personal injury lawyers to make a sacrifice, just like they've asked america's seniors, doctors, governors, and small business owners have been asked to make a sacrifice. americans don't want a government takeover of health care. they want reforms that everyone can understand and all of us can agree on, and nothing could be simpler or more straightforward than putting an end to the junk lawsuits that drive up costs and put doctors out of business. americans don't want grand schemes. they want commonsense proposals. medical liability would be a very good place to start. mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will resume consideration
of h.r. 3183, which the clerk will report. the clerk: calendar number 116, h.r. 3183, an act making appropriations for energy and water development and so forth and for other purposes. mr. dorgan: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from north dakota. mr. dorgan: mr. president, we are waiting on the legislation coming from the appropriations subcommittee on energy and
water, which i chair, and we'll be on that momentarily. while we arwe're on the bill bug for amendments an discussion. we've had people coming to the floor of the senate yesterday, now this morning, incessantly over a long period of time talking about health care, and health care is obviously very, very important; no question about that. the relentless increase in the cost of health care hurts families, it hurts businesses, it hurts government programs that provide for health care. so we need to do something about that. but it's interesting. what i hear on the floor of the senate from the critics of these issues is, what's wrong, what's wrong? well, you know, it is not -- it doesn't take a lot of energy or a lot of time to determine what's wrong and be a critic. i understand that. i've often told the story of mark twain, who was asked to debate once, and he said, of course i'll be engaged in that debate as long as i can take the nextgenive side.
they said, well, we've not even told the subject of the debate. he said, oh, it doesn't matter. the nextgenive side will take no preparation. -- --the negative side will take no preparation. and so these discussions talking about what's wrong, you know what, we know what's wrong. what's wrong is that we have this relentless rise of health care costs. we spend more on health care than anybody else in the world, by far, and we rank somewhere around 41st in life expectancy. we spend almost twice as much per person as anyone else in the world spends on health care. i hear all these critics coming out here talking about what's wrong with this plan or that plan, and never talk about prescription drugs. most of the people are those who vote against plans to put downward pressure on prescription drugs. yet one of the fastest-rising
areas of health care costs is prescription drugs. let me show on the floor of the senate two bottles that would contain -- the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. dorgan: these two bottles which i have shown many, many times contain lipitor. it is medicine that's produced in ireland and then shipped all around the world. this lipitor, as you can see, comes in eye did no identical b. f.d.a. approved by our food and drug administration in our country is put in two different bottles. one shipped to the united states -- this one -- and the other is shipped to canada. what's the difference? well, there's no difference in the medicine. came from the same place, by the same company. the difference is price. the canadians get to pay half the price the americans pay. and it's not just lipitor, the most popular cholesterol-lowering drug that exists out there. it's not just lib tear lipitor.
it's drug after drug after drug, prescription drug after prescription drug after prescription drug. the american people get to pay the highest costs in the world. how about taking a whack at this and saying it is not fair the american people should pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. why are they required to pay the highest price in the world? because there's kind of a entete heart deal in law -- there's kind of a sweetheart deal in law that says that much of the ingredients in these drugs comes from all around the world. china, as an example, the manufacturers can produce these drugs in ireland using ingredients from all around the world and then bring them in to sell to the american consumer. but the american consumer cannot access the same f.d.a.-approved drug sold in every other country of the world, vitter lit every other industrial country, at a fraction of the price the american consumer is charged.
why when we hear these critics come to the floor on health care issues, do we not hear them suggest, here's an area where we could substantially cut costs? give the american american the y everybody else has and that is to shop for these tp*d-approved drugs in areas where you see much lower prices. the pharmaceutical industry will say if you aloe the -- allow the american people to do that and if we can't charge the highest prices to the american people for prescription drugs, we won't have the money to do our research to find new drugs. that's not really true, is it? the fact is the pharmaceutical industry spends more money on research from europe than they do in the united states, and in virtually every european country the european consumers get to pay less money for the same drugs the american consumers are now charged. well, we've tried. a group of us, bipartisan group, has legislation to give the american consumer the right to access these lower-cost
prescription drugs from areas in the country where you can pay a fraction of the price for the identical drug that the american consumer pays the highest price in the world for. but we've got a staunch bunch of folks in this chamber who support the pharmaceutical industry and who decide that the american people shouldn't have this right. i would just say to those who are the critics of virtually anything anybody talks about in health care, maybe you ought to decide to support those of us that have introduced bipartisan legislation to deal with the issue of the prescription drug prices in which the american people are charged the highest prices in the world. it's not fair. it's gone on too long, and it needs to be changed. mr. president, with respect to health care generally, this issue is one of those issues that's very, very important. we're in the middle of a very deep recession.
i think job one in this country by far is to put the country back on track so that people can get back on payrolls, get back to work and have jobs. that makes almost everything else possible. this is the deepest recession since the great depression, and we've got a lot of work to do. this president inherited a mess, no question about that. $1.3 trillion in deficit this year is what he inherited. it is not going to be $1.9 trillion because the congress advanced and the congress passed an economic recovery program. then we need to begin trimming back budget deficits and put the country back on track. we cannot for any amount of time continue to put back together a government the american people are not willing to pay for. that is not a path that works. the president, when he took office, said there are two other things we need to do, a number of other things we need to do,
one of which is is to try to get control over these escalating health care costs. i don't know exactly how this is going to end up. i don't know what plan might or might not exist at the end of the day. but i think congress is going to find a way through this. and i think it is useful and important and productive for us to be working and working hard to see what are the solutions. how do we put downward pressure on prices? how do we try to provide broader coverage to those who don't now have health care coverage? i mean, i think we can do this. it might well be that it has to be done in a couple of phases. the first of which is to put downward pressure on the pricing. and the second of which is to extend coverage. but however we do it, we need to decide that health care costs are rising far more rapidly than is sustainable. they blow a hole in the federal budget deficit because we, the federal government, through medicare and through medicaid,
is the largest consumer of health care. so we don't have much choice but to really find a way to do this. now, i understand there's a lot in this health care system that wants to protect one is, one of which is prescription drugs. i just mentioned this prescription drug called lipitor. most people would know the name of this. why? because when they leaf through "newsweek" or "time" magazine, they'll see a full-page ad for lipitor. when they shave in the morning or brush their teeth in the morning, if they have a television near their bathroom, they'll understand about lipitor. they'll understand about the purple pill, about prescription drugs. because relentless advertising is driven toward the consumer to say go ask your doctor if you shouldn't be taking this drug. go check with your doctor. isn't the purple pill right for you? relentless consumer advertising for something that you can't buy unless a doctor believes you need it and a doctor prescribes
it for you. is that something that we ought to take care of maybe? i think so. there are a whole range of areas that i think are very important in health care that we need to try to do something about. and i think we can. it is horribly complicated, very difficult, a very heavy lift. and we need to do it in a way that, first and foremost, puts downward pressure on health care pricing. the fact is we can't and should not be spending twice as much as anybody else in the world per capita on health care only to find out that we rank 41st in life expectancy. that means we're spending much more than anybody else and not getting the outcome or the results. so i would just say to the people, including this morning, the first thing out of the box is the critics of health care once again, relentlessly on the floor telling us what's wrong. and, you know, as i said, mark twain knew it, the negative side requires no preparation. so i'm not sure these are well-prepared arguments, but they're certainly relentless.
it's nice to hear what's wrong. maybe as 100 senators who dress up in suits in the morning we could come and spend the entire day talking about what's right. this is a great country, one in which we have a privilege to live in freedom, we have the privilege to be engaged in public debate. maybe let's spend a little more time trying to figure out what's right about this country and find out what kinds of solutions can unite us rather than divide us and find out how we get the best of each rather than the worst of both when we talk about the political parties. if we can do that, maybe we'll advance this country's interests. the fact is we all stand in the same hole. it's a very deep economic hole, the deepest since the great depression. and we'd all be well sraoeuzed, it seems to me, to find ways to begin working together to address these issues. mr. president, i yield the floor. i make a point of order that a quorum is not present. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
the presiding officer: the senator from tennessee. a senator: thank you, mr. president. i would like to consent to set aside the pending amendment. the presiding officer: the senator from tennessee is notified the senate is in a quorum call. mr. corker: i would thraoeubg dispense with the quorum. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. corker: mr. president, thank you for that technicality. i'd like to at this point ask unanimous consent to set aside the pending amendment in no way to disrupt the order, to come back to that when completed. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. dorgan: mr. president, i will not object, but let me
further ask consent that following the presentation of this amendment that we have consent to set aside this amendment for a democratic amendment that is about to be offered. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection, so ordered. mr. corker: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from tennessee is recognized. mr. corker: mr. president, i'd like to -- and i thank the senator from north dakota for his agreeing to let me do this. i'd like to call up amendment number 1865. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: the senator from tennessee, mr. corker, proposes an amendment numbered 1865 to amendment number -- mr. corker: mr. president, i would like to dispose of the reading. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. corker: mr. president, this is an amendment to deal with the ownership that i think many americans have concerns about and private companies. what this amendment would do is for any company that the u.s. government owns more than 20% of, it would place, such as, by
the way, general motors, what it would do is place those companies into a trust, and that trust will be managed by three very professional individuals known to be leaders. people like, i would hope, jack welch, and others who have -- and warren buffet -- people who have shown the ability to actually look after assets of this nature. they would manage this particular stock ownership through december 24 of 2011. they would dispense of these assets in a way that benefit the u.s. taxpayers. in the event that at that time they were able to come to congress and let us know that it was not in the taxpayers' interest for this to be done, then we could certainly grant an extension. but the point of this is to make sure that taxpayers benefit from what's happened but at the same time keep all of us, as the senator from north carolina
alluded to the other day, 100 people in suits -- keep us from actually being involved and keep the administration from being involved in any way in managing these companies. i think all of us are very concerned about governmental ownership th-fplt amendment, again, would allow the taxpayers who were sold tarp, were sold tarp on the basis that they would get a return on their investment and in essence this company, for instance, general motors, has over $50 billion in taxpayer money in it today. what this amendment would do was, again, would separate the line between government and these companies but at the same time allow the taxpayers of this country and our u.s. government to recoup those money to pay down this ever-building debt that our country has. other companies would come into this category once we got to 20% level -- citigroup, a.i.g. would obviously would fall in this
category. but what this does, this amendment solves the issue for the long haul because as companies like general motors and others come into ownership by u.s. taxpayers, again we are uncomfortable with that. this separates this ownership, puts it into a trust, something this administration and this congress can have nothing to do with. and yet the taxpayers are managed -- their assets are managed to the best interest of the u.s. taxpayer. with that, mr. president, i thank you for letting me call up this amendment. i realize that this will be set aside or be moved to other business. i hope that at some point during this debate we'll have a vote on this amendment. i thank you very much for the time, and i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
mr. wicker: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator tennessee. mr. wicker: i would like to dispense with the quorum call, sir. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. wicker: i would like to ask unanimous consent that the amendment 1865 that i called up earlier be modified, as presented at the desk. the presiding officer: the amendment is so modified. mr. wicker: thank you, mr. president. then, if there's no objection from the two lead senators, i might expand a little bit on the amendment one more time, since there's no activity on the floor at present. mr. dorgan: mr. president,
would the senator yield? the presiding officer: the senator from north dakota. mr. dorgan: let me just say that i happen to be a cosponsor of the amendment. i think the amendment is being offered to the energy and water appropriations bill, so there may well be a rule 16 against it. i mean, it is appropriate -- it appears t to me to be legislated on an appropriations bill. let me say that you think he and senator warner have offered a constructive idea, one that i support and one that i had cosponsored to him offering it on the floor. but i think it's useful for the senators to hear a complete description of the proposal, and if it is not resolved on this bill -- and probably will not be because it is legislating on an appropriations bill -- my hope is it would be resolved on some other piece of legislation. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. wicker: mr. president, thank you. and i thank the comments from the senator from north dakota. and what i have tried to do in this amendment, with senator warner from virginia, both of us serving on the banking
committee, is to create a solution that solves the issue of us having u.s. government ownership in companies, which i think makes everybody in this body -- most everybody in this body -- very uncomfortable. but at the same time deal with the issue of this massive federal deficit. again, i mentioned earlier that the taxpayers of this country were sold the tarp package, and we voted it into activity last fall, on the fact that this $700 billion that was being invested in financial institutions at the time, as we know it evolved to general motors and other types of companies, but that money was going to be invested in these companies and 100% of the repayment was going to be used to pay down the federal deficit. i mean, that's what we all thought we were doing at that time, and that bill passed out of this body with 74 or 75 votes, with all of us present in
this chamber. mr. president, i think, again, the american people and all of us in this body have become concerned about what types of political activities can take place when the u.s. government owns a bank or owns an automotive company. i can assure you, i do. i've seen it firsthand, up close and personal. i understand that political decisions can be made that are not in the best interests of the companies, certainly not in the best interests of the taxpayers. and so, how do you solve that? how do you create a seine that i remember yow where these -- how do you create a scenario where these companies are separate from you where representatives and senators are not calling up trying to help the company decide what kind of transactions are going to be involved in but at the same time make sure that the proceeds from any kind of sale of these companies or the securities that we own in them actually end up reducing the deficit? so i think this is a very balanced approach. senator warner has joined me in this effort, which i appreciate greatly, a bipartisan effort to,
again, move away from this body, move away from the administration, move away from the house of representatives any ability to affect these companies politically, but at the same time to ensure that any proceeds that come from the sale of these securities end up going to pay down the federal deficit, which i think all of us are concerned b i think all of us are aware that under the 10-year budget that's been proposed, our deficit doubles from what it's been the entire history of our country. it doubles over five years and triples over 10 years. i think people around this country, rightly so -- i was on a town hall phone call last night, and people are concerned about the national deficit. they should be. we all rl concerned. this is a bill to help solve that, not make it womplets and at the sam-- not make itworse. and at the same time remove us from any kind of politicization of these companies. with that, mr. president, i
mr. wyden: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. wyden: i ask unanimous consent to vacate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. wyden: mr. president, i wanted to spend just a few minutes this morning talking about some of the positive developments that are taking place right now on this issue of health care reform. for example, this morning the president is out talking to workers, insured workers, about how health care reform will work for them. he is spending his political capital. he is using the bully pulpit that is the white house, and it
certainly reflects that this is a priority for the president of the united states. a second positive development is in the senate finance committee, we have a bipartisan group of six united states senators. they are putting in killer hours at this point. i've been kidding them that i suspect they're being fed intra venusly, but they are trying to put together a bipartisan health reform effort, and i appreciate what they're doing. and, third, i note my good friend from utah on the floor of the senate this morning. he and i have made it clear that the sponsors of the healthy americans act -- there are 15 of us, it is a bipartisan group -- we are very open that working with chairman baucus, chairman dodd, the president of the united states in a bipartisan fashion to fix health care. so the question then front and
center in all of these discussions with the president, with the bipartisan group in the finance committee, with the bipartisan group that senator bennett and i are part of, with the sponsors of the healthy americans act, puts front and center the question of how you control costs in health care. what are you going to do to make health care more affordable? and it is our judgment that the key to making health care more affordable is to make sure that people have bargaining power and people have choice. choice, frankly, like members of congress have. the distinguished senator from new mexico, the senator from utah, and myself, we actually belong to something that's pretty much an exchange. youan also call them farmers' markets.
but essentially what we in the united states senate have the opportunity to do is choose from a menu of private health policies. we get rewarded for making an economical selection. in effect, you can save on your premiums. and we get rewarded, for example, when we choose a program that puts more emphasis on prevention and health. so senators, when they shop wisely, end up being wealthier and healthier as a result of being able to participate in a big exchange. what we'd like to do -- senator bennett and myself -- is extend that kind of bargaining power to everybody in our country. everybody in our country over a period of time -- going to have to phase it in over a few years -- ought to have a chance to have that kind of bargaining power and that kind of clout that we have as members of
congress, be in a position to choose a policy. and when they make a good choice, when they shop wisely, the money goes into their pocket. that's the kind of approach that senator bennett and i have afrbgd indicated. it is a way to -- advocated. it is a way to focus on these exchanges, these farmers' markets which, in my view, mr. president, are the key to getting health reform right. and what they do, if you set it up right, is you give all the middle-class people who are insured today, insured in new mexico and utah and oregon, you give them a chance to come out winners under health reform at the get-go. not waiting 10, 12, 15 years. but if you're insured in new mexico, the president has said he's going to let you keep the coverage you have.
and, boy, that makes a lot of sense. we hear that at every meeting. but if, for example, in utah oregon or and new mexico, you don't like the coverage you have and you can get a better deal at the exchange, something that puts more money in your pocket, something that helps you and your family, let's let people do that. under the free choice proposal that senator bennett and i have advocated, that we have presented to chairman baucus and chairman dodd and the president of the united states, this is something you can do for the insured that helps them save money right at the get-go. now, regrettably, a number of the bills that have been considered in the congress don't give people those kinds of choices. in fact, a lot of americans are being told, well, the public option is the way to go. and when you look at how these bills are set up, because
there's something called fire walls that restrict some people from getting these choices, a lot of the people are being told that the public option is the way to go, aren't even going to get that choice. so the key to helping people who have insurance -- there are about 160 million people who get coverage through the private sector -- is to get these exchanges right, make sure that everybody has bargaining power in these exchanges so they can be part of big groups. i checked the other day. i have a private policy as a member of congress, the people of oregon. in effect, they're my employer, they pay a portion of it. we've got a million people in our group. that's the way to spread a lot of cost and risk through a group so you can get real value. let's set these exchanges up at least so that big groups, the regional approach, senator bennett and i have said we're
open to a variety of ways to do it. but let's make sure that everybody's got clout in the marketplace. if you're a small business in new mexico today, you get strangled by the administrative costs of health care. you don't have much clout in the marketplace. you're paying 30% of your dollar, your health care dollar for administration in terms of health care coverage for you as an employer of a small business in new mexico or utah or elsewhere. it shouldn't be that way. we should be giving those small businesses relief. so what senator bennett and i have said with our free choice proposal is if you're an employer in new mexico or elsewhere in this country, you want to take your workers to the exchange -- by the way, this is sphroeur-sponsored insurance much this is an employer taking their workers to the exchange. you can go to the exchange in new mexico and say you want a
discount. you want a discount because you are taking your workers to the exchange and you can get some rehrefplt that's playing hardball with the -- get some relief. that's playing hard pwaufplt that's saying to the people who insure kwror workers, you're not giving me a good enough deal so i'm going to have a chance to go to the insurance exchange and get a better one. we call it free choice, more options for employers, more options for workers, options that look like what members of congress have. and i really fear that if we don't set up a system that gets this exchange right so that people have bargaining power, employers and employees, you're not going to be able to get the kind of cost containment that the president of the united states has identified correctly as the heart of health care reform. it's about holding down costs. it's about making coverage more affordable.
i urge colleagues to look at the article that was written in this morning's washington "washington post" talking about the importance of the exchange, what it can mean for the bargaining power of middle-class people and businesses if it is set up right. and we know how to set it up right because it resembles the system that all of us enjoy here in the united states senate. at the beginning of the year you have a choice, a menu of options. you make a good one. you choose from a big group where you have a lot of clout and a lot of bargaining power. the money goes right into your pocket. one last point with respect to this free choice issue, mr. president. sometimes the best choices are not the most expensive choices. sometimes as you look at the health care system -- and senator bennett knows a lot about this because in utah, they've got a system that has
illustrated it, that the best choices aren't always the most expensive choices. let's make it easier for people of these other health care programs that are regarded as the gold standard in terms of quality. one of the concerns i have about all these fire walls in the legislation that's being considered that restricts choice is that americans around this country, after a big push here in the united states congress to choose quality, aren't even going to have the opportunity to choose from these approaches, the mayo program, the program in utah that gets more value for the health care dollar. so there are some positive developments in this health care debate going on today, mr. president. to highlight again, the president out talking to workers
and insured workers. the negotiations going on in the senate finance committee. the very gracious approach that senator bennett and a number of republicans are taking in terms of saying, look, we want this to be bipartisan. we want to meet the president halfway. each of those developments, it seems to me, he very positive, fixing health care absolutely key to fixing the economy. as ezra klein points out in "the washington post," the reason people's take-home pay isn't going up is because medical costs are gobbling up everything in sight. the key to fixing health care and particularly holding costs down is promoting free choice, getting these exchanges right so that employers and employees have more opportunities to hold costs down, and i think in view of these positive developments that i have highlighted, there
is reason for senators to just stay at it, keep working in a bipartisan way, and real progress is going to be made, mr. president, before this body leaves for the august break. mr. president, with that, i'd yield the floor. mr. bennett: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. bennett: mr. president, i listened with interest as my friend from oregon outlined his relentless determination to get a solution to this problem. and i pay tribute to him for his willingness to do that, and i'm happy to follow his leadership as we do our best to support what has been known cloak wally around the country as the -- colloquially around the country as the wyden-bennett bill, although in utah we refer to it as the bennett-wyden bill.
senator and senator comes down here and speaks for permission in morning business and they always speak about health care. and since we haven't anybody else here to speak about the bill on the floor, chairman dorgan has indulged them in that bit of morning business. the one thread that has run through much of the statements about health care has been, we must get rid of the present system, as if that were a debatable issue. everybody recognizes we must get rid of the present system. the proposal that senator wyden and i have been behind gets rid of the present system. and coming to the floor and giving example after example of how the present system has failed americans is not the same thing as putting forward a legitimate proposal as to how to deal with the present system. and we discussed that a little yesterday, so i won't go into it
again. i just want to make one slight change -- one slight addition to the comments that senator wyden made with respect to choice. when i first got here and the first lady of the united states, hillary clinton, was proposing a health care program, one of the mantras that we heard on the street from people who would demonstrate was, we want what members of congress have. we want the plan you have. and i said, half if a she schussly but half seriously, i want the plan i had before i came here. because the plan i had was better than the one that we got as members of congress. now, i pointed out the reason i wanted that plan is that i got to pick what that plan would be. how did i goat pick what that plan would be?
i got to pick because i was the c.e.o. of the company that made the choice. i was the only person in that company that got to pick because once i made the decision, this is what we will have in the company, everybody else in the company was dependent upon my wisdom. now, senator wyden has pointed out, we do have a wide range of choices in the plan that's available to us as federal employees. and i underscore when i discuss this with people in utah, that just because i am a senator, i have the same plan that people at hill air force v this is the plan of all federal employees. and, yes, there are a number of choices. and, yes, i'm satisfied with it, and i like it. but it is still true that it is my employer -- in this case, the federal government -- who designed the plan. i'm glad it's a good plan. i don't think i would want to change it. i think i would take advantage
of the promises that have been made in this debate that if you like what you've got, you can keep it. but the point is that someone who is an employer who has not made that available is frozen out of the opportunity for choice by virtue of the decision that the c.e.o. of his company made. and the one sure-fire question i can ask and know the answer i will get in every town meeting i hold on this is to say, how many of you in the group gathered either know somebody or are somebody trapped in a job he or she hates because they're afraid to lose their health care benefits? and every time i ask that question, hands go up all over the room. that's the kind of thing that senator wyden and i are trying to change. these people are locked in a system they -- locked in a job
they hate because they're afraid they will lose their health care. and they are not allowed the choice of deciding what their health care dollars will be spent for. they are -- it is determined for them by their employer. if we go the direction in which senator wyden and i want to go, employers who continue to offer plans that the employees like will find that they are employees will exercise their right of choice to stay with that plan. but employers who say, no, we're going to cut the corners a little and cut back on things just because we think it would be better for our bottom line if we do this will discover that, if our legislation passes, their employees will be empowered to say, we're taking our health care dollars and going someplace else and making another choice. and that is the fundamental
reason why we have been scored as having the bill that will turn the cost curve down rather than up. we change the present system in a way that will allow market forces to get into the mix and allow people to exercise their free choice and start to save money as a consequence, whereas all of the other plans that are being scored as turning the cost curve up do it because they eliminate any power of the marketplace of individuals to cheerexercise their choice. i wish we were discussing energy and water. we seem to have turned this into a discussion of health care because the other folks won't come down. i won't intrude upon that any further. but having heard my colleague, i felt it was appropriate for me to make these additio additional comments. with that, mr. president, i
yield the floor. mr. dorgan: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from north dakota. mr. dorgan: met me just make a point, because we've heard a lot of discussion about health care. my colleague from oregon and from utah talked about this yesterday and today. i think it is important to point out, people talk about the choices members of congress have, and i think it is giving the impression that somehow members of congress have some gold-plated health care system that other federal employees do not have. in fact, i believe the choices available to members of congress are the choices available in the federal employees' health benefit plan for millions of other federal imleessments the reason i mak make -- of other fl employees. the reason i make that point is because this federal employee health benefit is available it all federal employees. all have the same choices by and large and those are the choices that members of congress have. last weekend i had several people talk to me about the
extraordinary health insurance that members of congress have. and i think part of that comes from this discussion about members of congress have all these choices. very important i think for people to understand, we have the same health care plan that other federal employees have, millions of them. and the same choices they have. and so i just wanted to make sure that the record shows that, because i think it is important. mr. wyden: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. wyden: mr. president, let me just pick up on the point made by the senator from north dakota, because he is very accurate in his assessment. one of the reasons that i like so much this idea of trying to set up a model like we have here in the united states congress with our exchanges is because, for example, somebody who's working for the forest service in the state of oregon has essentially the same kinds of choices that you have for the
wyden family. and i think senator dorgan's point about trying to make clear to the american people that these choices that members of congress have, that somebody has, for example, who works for the forest service in oregon are essentially choices that involve basic health care. what we think of as preventive care, primary care, being able to go see your doctor, being able to get hospital coverage, and a reasonable catastrophic benefit. that's what members of congress can slings choose them. that's what somebody has an opportunity to get if they work at the forest service. so i think senator dorgan's point is very valid, and the reason that i have come back to this is because under our free choice proposal, people in this country would, in effect, be able to go to one of these
exchanges, which is like a farmers' market, and choose from a menu of private policies not unlike what a member of congress has and somebody who works for the forest service. so i think the senator from north dakota has made a good point. we, of course, have a lot of bargaining power because we go into these big groups, and that bargaining power can hold down administrative costs, get a better deal for somebody who has insurance, and i just would like to see that, as we go forward with this legislation, these exchanges are set up around a lot of the same principles that members of congress have because, if you do that, that is going to hold costs down for people who have insurance, it is going to make their coverage more affordable, and, for example, the people -- the workers the president is going to see today would have
additional choices in the future to save money when they are purchasing quality health care. so, mr. president, with that, i thank the senator from north dakota for making an important point. mr. dorgan: mr. president, we are ready to clear several cleared amendments, and i would like to ask unanimous consent to consider amendment 1846, which is already pending. the presiding officer: is there further debate on the amendment? mr. dorgan: my understanding is the amendment is cleared on both sides. iblg there is no further debate and i ask for its immediate consideration. the presiding officer: if there is no further debate, all in favor say aye. if know, say no. the ayes appear to have it. the amendment is disagreed to. mr. dorgan: i call up amendments 184 4 and 1845 en bloc. i ask to dispense with the reading of the amendments. these are technical amendments
cleared by both sides. i ask for their immediate consideration. 1844 and 184567845. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection, so ordered. the amendments are agreed to. mr. dorgan: mr. president, i believe we'll have an amendment by the senator from nebraska, in a few minutes. let me say to the senator from utah, we really need to have senators come over and offer amendments. if you have amendments that you want to add to this bill, offer, and debate, we expect you to be here and ultimately those who have amendments and don't come to offer them are probably going to be precluded at some point because we will move to complete this bill. we've sat here the day before and yesterday and now today, and if we have -- this is a very important piece of legislation that deals with the energy
projects across the country, the water projects across the country, and we want to complete this bill preferly this evening thiif we can. we need some asemblance of cooperation, which has been inevident the last couple of days. mr. bennett: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. bennett: i would ask the chairman, since cloture has been filed, doesn't there arise a time at which there is a cutoff by which amendments can be offered? mr. dorgan: i would say to the snoer from utah, there is a 1:00 filing deadline today, but the fact is, we already have amendments filed but aren't offered. so i expect we'll get additional amendments filed. the key is to get people down here to offer their amendments. but there is a 1:00 filing deadline. and cloture -- the cloture petition was filed last evening.
i understand why the senator from nevada, the majority lead leader, filed t i don't think he had much choice. we bring an appropriations bill to the floor that has very widespread support and then it largely comes to a stand still and it wouldn't make much sense for us to be here in this position all week. so i think senator reid had very little choice but to file a cloture petition. i hope we wouldn't need it. if people come offer their amendments, we'll work with them. senator bennett and i will try to get you the votes and perhaps this evening we can get this bill completed. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from nebraska. mr. nelson:i ask that we set aside the pending amendment. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection, so ordered. mr. nelson: i ask permission to call the pending amendment. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: the senator the senam nebraska, mr. nelson, proposes
amendment numbered 1874 to amendment number 1813. mr. nelson: mr. president, the amendment that i propose serves to address the government significant ownership with the -- it puts the senate on record and makes absolutely clear that the federal government is a temporary shareholder in general motors and chrysler and should divest its shareholder position as expeditiously as possible. it's pretty clear no one ever wanted the government to be in the car business, but the alternative was worse, and the turmoil in the car industry extends far beyond detroit, as most americans know. dealerships across my state of nebraska and i'm assuming across your state as well are feeling the impacts of decisions made by automakers following bankruptcies. chrysler terminated franchise agreements with nine dealerships in nebraska and g.m. is terminating franchise agreements with 21 dealerships in nebraska.
these decisions are affecting dealerships, their employees and communities across my state. however, now that investment has been made, we owe it to the american taxpayer to be clear about what will happen with their money. my resolution states that the federal government is only a temporary stakeholder in the american automotive industry and should take all possible steps to protect american taxpayer dollars and divert its ownership interests in such companies as expeditiously as possible. the government should not be involved in day-to-day operations. and as soon as the auto companies have regained their financial footing, the government must divest. further, this resolution calls on the tkpwaoft accountability office and inspector general for the troubled assets relief program, or tarp, to continue to provide oversight and report to congress on the automakers progress so that the federal
government may complete did i investigatety tour without delay. -- divestiture without delay. this is not a partisan issue. we have had both parties recognize the need of the current downfall of the auto industry and recognize the need to remove government involvement as quickly as possible. so to conclude, mr. president, our sense of the senate resolution affirms what the presidents have already made clear. taxpayers should be protected and the government should get out of the auto business as soon as possible. through this resolution, the senate leaves no question about the government's future role e n the u.s. auto industry. in the event there has been an uncertainty about that ownership, this resolution will clear that up. thank you, mr. president, and i yield the floor. mr. bennett: mr. president, i
the presiding officer: the senator from north dakota. mr. dorgan: mr. president, we are awaiting at this point -- the presiding officer: the senate's in a quorum call. mr. dorgan: mr. president, i ask consent that the quorum call be vacated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. dorgan: mr. president, we are awaiting some word from senator alexander. we have indicated to him -- he was here earlier this morning to offer an amendment, and we've indicated that we would -- we'd very much like to have a vote at 11:30 this morning. we're trying to contact senator alexander and his staff. there will be a budget point of
order against the amendment offered by senator alexander. so the vote would be on the point of order that would be made with respect to the budget. so, our hope is -- senator bennett and myself hope to get this vote, so we can get people to the floor and determine which amendments are going to be offered and when. we've been -- the majority leader has been extraordinarily patient in trying to schedule bills on the floor of the senate. we bring an energy and water appropriations bill to the floor. -- to the floor of the senate. people say they have amendments but they don't come to the floor and offer them. the majority leader offered a cloture petition last evening. he didn't have much choice to do that. i think what's happening today demonstrates the requirement that the majority leader had to file this cloture petition. it would be far better for everybody if we can dispose of the amendments. weervetion i think, three amendments -- we have, i think, three amendments now on what are
called the tarp amendments dealing with tarp funds. i think we can dispose of the three of them, if we can have senator alexander come and reach an agreement on time and have a vote at 11:30, at threats we would at that point -- at least we would at that point get senators to the flosh dispose of that amendment on a budget point of order and there will be points of order gunshot the other amendments as well. different points of order, i might add. mr. bennett: mr. president? i have just spoken with senator alexander, and he is on his way over, and he is amenable to having a rapid vote. so he would come over and discuss with us the unanimous consent agreement with respect to time, et cetera. mr. dorgan: mr. president, we will appreciate the cooperation of senator alexander. i know he cares a lot about his amendment. as indicated, there will be a budget point of order that lies against the amendment. i will make that point of order. but then we would be able to have a recorded vote on that point of order, and my hope would be that we can do that at
the presiding officer: the senator from north dakota. mr. dorgan: i ask that the quorum call be vacated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. dorgan: i ask that the senate now resume the alexander amendment number 1862 and that senator dorgan be recognized to raise a budget act 302-f point of order against the amendment, that once senator alex dearn has moved to waive the relevant point of order, that debate on the waiber extend to 11:25 a.m., with the time quollly divided and controlled by senators dorgan and alexander or their designees and that at 11:25, the senate proceed to vote on the motion to waiving with no amendments in order for the amendment during its pendency. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection, so ordered.
mr. dorgan: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from north dabl north d. mr. dorgan: i make a point of order that the amendment violates section 302-f of the congressional budget act. mr. alexander: i move to waive the applicable section of the budget act with respect to my amendment scndz for the yeas and nays. the presiding officer: is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. the yeas and nays are ordered. mr. alexander: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from tennessee. mr. alexander: we have time equally divided between now and 11:25, is that correct? the presiding officer: the senator is correct. mr. alexander: i would like it reserve the last minute of my time, if i may, for use just before the vote. but i will go ahead now. mr. president, i thank the managers of the bill for creating the opportunity for
this vote. the american people want the government, the federal government, out of the auto business. i believe democrats and republicans in the united states senate would like to have the government out of the auto business. president obama has said he woo have the government out of the auto business. yet, we are in the auto business in a big way for the forseeable future unless we take some action. the taxpayers are paying more than $70 billion for 60% of the stock in general motors and about 8% of the stock in chrysler. so what my amendment would do, which is cosponsored by the distinguished senator from utah, senator bennett, and senator mcconnell and senator kyl and others, what this amendment would do, most importantly, is have the treasury within a year
to declare a stock dividend, which means to give the stock the government owns in general motors and chrysler to the 120 million americans who payed taxes on april 15. if they paid for it, they should own it. why is that a good idea? well, if we all want the government out of the auto business -- and polls show that 95% of americans agree that the government is not a good overseer of corporations like general motors and chrysler. we know that, and we've seen this incestuous relationship that develops. we own the company, so we call up the managers and say change your dealer contracts. don't close a warehouse in my district. put your plant in my state. why are you buying a battery from south korea when you could be buying one from my congressional district? we're summoning the executives
of general motors and chrysler to the more than 60 committees and subcommittees here who have some say-so over this company, these companies that we own, one of which we own a big majority of, and so they have to drive their congressionally-approved methods of transportation to washington, d.c. and spend time talking to us -- us, who know nothing about building cars, but that doesn't stop us from giving them a lot of advice. and then they go back, and during that day they've talked to us but they haven't designed or built or sold a car. so we need to get the stock out of the hands of the government and into the hands of the taxpayers. several senators have suggested a way to do that, but the simplest way to do that is the corporate spinoff or spinout. a spinoff is a new organizational entity formed by
a split from the larger one. it typically happens when you have a corporation who has a subsidiary which increasingly doesn't have any relevance to the major corporation's business, so you simply give the ownership to the owners of the major corporation. that's what procter & gamble did with clorox in 1969. they decided clorox didn't have anything to do with procter & gamble anymore, so it gave all the stock in clorox to the owners of procter & gamble. time warner in 2009 gave all the stock in time warner cable to the people who paid for stock in time warner. pepsi-cola gave all the stock in k.f.c., pizza hut and tack cobell to the people who own -- and taco bell to the people wh own stock in pepsico. so why should we not do that with general motors and chrysler? we paid for it. we own it.
we should give the stock back to all the taxpayers who paid for it on april 15. we should stop this incestuous political meddling with these major american corporations. the only alternatives other than this are to slowly sell down the stock over a period of years, and over that time we'll meddle so much, general motors will never survive. this is the best thing for general motors. it's the best thing for the country. and we have the to reverse this trend of washington take overs of banks and insurance companies and car companies, then this is the simplest thing to do. so i urge my colleagues to vote "yes" on a motion to waive the budget point of order. i thank the president. i yield the floor. mr. durbin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from illinois. mr. durbin: mr. president, first let me commend my colleague from the state of tennessee for his ingenuity, creativity, not necessarily for
his wisdom. i don't agree with my amendment and am going to oppose it. the united states government never wanted to get in the automobile business. president obama has said that. he said he's not going to run these automobile companies. that isn't why i ran for president. what he tried to do is to save some major companies in america and, more importantly, save jobs in america as well. what he tried to do was create incentives for the automobile companies to make some decisions they needed to make. chrysler to ally with fiat for the future. general motors to basically gear down the amount of cars, number of cars they're going to make and number of brands, try to be a leader company that is going to be more responsive to american consumers. and that's why we're in the automobile business. but the president nor any member of his cabinet is not sitting down on a day-to-day basis making decisions when it comes to the future of the automobile companies. the senator from tennessee now wants to take the taxpayers' investment in general motors and other companies and basically turn it into a couple shares of
stock, maybe 10, 20, i'm not sure, shares of stock for every american. well, that may be an approach but i don't think it's one that's well thought out. what happens then at the next general motors shareholders meeting after senator alexander's wish comes true? who stands up to the management of the company? do each of us give up a day of work and go to the meeting to sit down and help make these decisions? not likely. what is more likely to occur is that the ownership of general motors will really feel no obligation. this stock ownership being distributed across america is going to dilute the impact of shareholder rights and the impact of shareholder power. i would rather have at least the prospect and the possibility that if the administration and management of general motors goes too far in one direction, they know that tarp, the money that's been spent there, is going to be a factor they have to take into consideration. what could that be? what could they possibly do that would enrage the taxpayers of
america who have saved our company? well, they could do what some of the banks did. they could declare multimillion-dollar bonuses for the people who work for them. what's holding them back at this moment? their largest lender, their creditor, the united states government, which doesn't exactly like that idea, as most americans don't like. this is going to end up liberating general motors in many respects, maybe some positive, but also some negative. terrible decisions which they could make with impunity after the alexander amendment passes. there is a reason why this was defeated in the appropriations committee. there is a reason why it should be defeated here on the floor of the senate. before we embark on this idea of providing a couple shares of stock to every citizen in america, we ought to step back and ask ourselves: is this really the best outcome to make sure that this company and its workers and the retiree rights survive? or is this kind of an ingenious, creative little idea that ought to be thought through? i think this needs to be kept in
the pot, boiling on the stove a little bit longer before we decide that we're going to embark on what is a first of its kind in america. every example that senator alexander gave involved shareholders receiving shares in companies. they weren't given to the public at large which is what you're proposing here. and i think that's a dramatic difference. we are diluting the impact of the shareholders with the alexander proposal. i hope my colleagues will join me in opposing it. mr. alexander: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from tennessee. mr. alexander: the senator from illinois made an excellent argument for why he believes it is better for general motors to run the auto companies. i believe it is better for it to be put in the stockholders of america. the presiding officer: the senator's time has expired. a senator: mr. president, i was going to speak in favor of the alexander amendment briefly. the presiding officer: senator alexander's time has expired.
mr. dorgan: mr. president, how much time remains? the presiding officer: a minute and a half remains under the control of the senator from north dakota. mr. dorgan: mr. president, let me just make the point, i understand what senator alexander wants to do. i have some of the same instincts. i think the president does as well. i don't want the federal government running america's corporations. we want to divest as quickly as we can. we want the companies to recover. but, whenever we do and whatever we do here, we need to do it in a way that protects the interests of the american taxpayers. and theirs are the interests that are at risk. to set a date within one year does not, in my judgment, protect the interest of the taxpayers. i happen to support a corker amendment. i was a cosponsor of the corker bill, when he talks about the establishment of trustees, three trustees to actually engaged in
running these companies so the government is not running them. he talks about, in his legislation, to liquidate that trust by december 2011, but they would submit a report to congress that liquidation would not happen unless it maximizes the profitability of the company and the return to the shareholder. that's one thing that's missing in the alexander amendment. the question of what maximizes the return to the american taxpayer? they are the ones that are at risk. what do we do to maximize the return? or are we going to leave billions, tens of billions of dollars on the table because somebody simply wants to pass a piece of legislation with an artificial end date? so i don't disagree with the intent of wanting to get out from under this issue of the federal government being engaged in these corporations. that's why i cosponsored the corker amendment. the presiding officer: the senator's time has expired. mr. dorgan: mr. president, i believe we're ready for a vote. i ask for the yeas and nays. the presiding officer: the yeas and nays have previously been ordered.
a senator: i ask for one minute before we go to vote. the presiding officer: is there objection? is there objection? as modified. without objection, the senator from michigan. ms. stabenow: thank you, mr. president. i did want to just, for the record, come down and indicate i know there is a point of order against this bill. but despite the intent, which i appreciate and agree with of protecting taxpayers' dollars. unfortunately the way this is designed, it would actually put taxpayers' dollars at risk by creating an end deadline so that we would have all of the taxpayers interests coming up at the same time. it would lower the value. it would put the companies at risk of a takeover which i don't believe my colleague or anybody in this body would want. so i think it's just incredibly important that we not try to
intervene with end dates that are in a way going to backfire in terms of putting taxpayer investment in these companies at risk. thank you. the presiding officer: the senator from tennessee. the senator from tennessee has a minute. mr. alexander: i thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i'm very surprised by this. i thought we all wanted to get the stock out of the government and into the hands of general motors. the arguments -- of the taxpayers. the arguments i'm hearing is that the government is wiser than the -- the arguments i'm hearing is that the government is wiser than the marketplace. it is dangerous to give the stock to 120 million people, taxpayers, who paid for it. it's their money. they should own it. general motors had 610 million shares before it went bankrupt. 51% of the american people own stock. this is a classic difference of opinion. do we want the government to run it? do we trust the government? or do we trust the shareholders?
i trust the shareholders. i urge my colleagues to vote "aye." the presiding officer: the time has expired. the question is on the motion -- the senator from michigan. mr. levin: let me ask unanimous consent that i put a statement in the record in opposition to the alexander amendment. the presiding officer: without objection. the question is on the motion to waive. the yeas and nays have been ordered. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
motion is not agreed to. the point of order is sustained, and the amendment falls. the senator from north dakota. mr. dorgan: move to reconsider the vote. the presiding officer: without objection. a senator: move to table. mr. dorgan: mr. president, i have 11 anne consent requests for -- i have 11 unanimous consent requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they have at approval of the majority and minority leaders. i ask consent these requests be agreed to and the requests be printed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. dorgan: mr. president, i make a point of order that a quorum is not present. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: mr. vitter: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana.
mr. vitter: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent to vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. vitter: mr. president, i rise to talk about something i've brought up several times on the floor of the senate which is the fact that the highway trust fund absolutely essential to continue to build out our highway infrastructure and particularly essential in the midst of this recession is about to run out of money. we need to do something about that and we need to act responsibly, not merely increase debt, increase deficit, borrow more money, but act responsibly, replenish this trust fund in a way that doesn't drive up yet more the public debt and the federal government debt. i have a proceedal to do just that but it's essential -- i have a proposal to do just that but it's essential that we consider this issue now, this week, and not wait until next week when the house of representatives won't even be in session so that we can correctly
address this issue and act in a responsible way. again, mr. president, it's very clear that the highway trust fund is running out of money. i think it's a near universal consensus that we need to act, we need to do something about that so that the highway program doesn't just end and essential construction in states -- all of our states around the country -- doesn't just come to a screeching halt. but how do we do that, mr. president? that's the issue. there is absolutely -- they're absolutely no reason -- there's absolutely no reason -- the presiding officer: the senator will suspend, please. order in the chamber. the senator from louisiana. mr. vitter: there's absolutely no reason that we need to do this by driving up the debt yet more, borrowing yet more money
from our lenders, whoever they may be, including the chinese government. we can do this with already appropriated dollars. and how do we do it? well, let's move some of the stimulus dollars, a very small percentage of the stimulus bill, which has already passed, dollars which have already been appropriated and move that to the highway trust fund. thisly solves the problem and does -- this solves the problem and does it in a responsible way without increasing our debt level, without borrowing yet more money from all sorts of sources, including foreign sources. mr. president, i summarized this proposal in a letter to senator reid cosigned by about 35 of my colleagues, and we sent the distinguished majority leader this letter on july 21. we urged him to get behind and support this proposal, but we also urged him to take up this matter of the highway trust fund
now, sooner, not later, so we can have a full, fair debate on the issue and come to a proper resolution. now, why does it matter when we take this up? well, mr. president, for a very simple reason, this week we could address the issue, we could have a full, fair debate, we could amend house action and send it back to the house and include the proposal that funds be shifted from the stimulus to meet this essential need. next week, we can do the same thing, but i can tell you the first thing that will come out of mouth of the majority leader and others, "well, the house is gone. the house has left town. it's take-it-or-leave-it." it's accede everything to they want, we canned amend it, one comma, one period that. is bogus, mr. president. we can amend it. we can in particular amend it if we act this week, and that's what we should do as soon as we conclude
consideration of the energy and water appropriation bill, which is on the floor now. so, mr. president, i urge all of my colleagues to come together in a reasonable, responsible debate to consider this commonsense solution of replenishing the highway trust fund but doing it out of stimulus dollars so we don't increase the debt yet more. after all, highway construction is exactly the sort of stimulus we can all agree on. it's precisely the sort of stimulus spending that has very broad, near universal bipartisan support so it's fully consistent with the broad goals of the stimulus. with all of that in mind, mr. president, i would repeat a unanimous consent request that i proffered several days ago. several days ago, i asked for unanimous consent that the senate call up and pass s. 1344,
my bill to use stimulus funds to protect the solvency of the highway trust fund. this request was objected to on the democratic side. i would now renew that request and specifically ask consent that the senate enter into a unanimous consent agreement that would provide for time certain, immediately following the conclusion of consideration of the energy and water appropriations bill, to consider this bill and would allow for relevant amendments. the presiding officer: is there objection? mrs. boxer: reglirveg the rightt to object. i'm going to spend about a minute to explain why i will object. the presiding officer: the senator from california. mrs. boxer: i know that senator vitter serves on the environment and public works committee with me. we work closely on many issues. i know that he is aware our committee has already voted an 18-month extension of our highway programs, our transportation